Our ride from Haines to Juneau is a sleek twin diesel-powered catamaran, the Fjordland, that cruises smoothly and quickly along the huge Lynn Canal. Glenn, our captain, is an animated narrator with lots of local knowledge and a sharp eye for wildlife on the seas and land.
You can only arrive in Juneau by air or water. Keeps out some of the riffraff, maybe? Sorta reduces great escapes by crooks, too — where would they go? And the police don’t have to wonder too much who these protesters are this week — they’re largely the same ones as last week or last year because no one really sneaks in to this island city unnoticed.
Formerly the library, this building houses the City Museum. Inside are several exhibits about Juneau and Douglas with an emphasis on hard rock mining. This is especially appropriate since much of Juneau and Douglas are arranged on flats along the river composed of the tails, or rock debris, from the mining processes.
We’ve heard someone comment, “This is voted the ugliest state capitol in the nation.” We thought it was very practical and sensible. I suppose those words aren’t a glowing recommendation for a beauty contest winner, but also I think our money should be spent well. This seems a very maintainable building. Good job, Alaska.
Unlike some state capitol buildings we’ve visited, Alaska does allow unfettered access to almost the entire capitol building. We elected to self-guide our tour instead of following around with a group. The building is tastefully decorated and seems very well-suited to its job.
We walked up the hill from the Capitol building and around the Governor’s mansion. It is one hundred years old, looks very nice without a huge lawn or overly large anything except the huge view of the boat harbor way down the hill. Next we walked down the hill through the historic buildings area and into a few shops before we returned to the tour bus for our next stop.
We felt we had seen and talked about just about enough glaciers already, but our caravan provided no reasonable alternative to going with the group to one more. This glacier, we heard in a video at the visitor’s center, is visited by thousands each year. (I know it’s not the same, but over 25,000 people daily visit the shopping mall near our home town. Only 32,000 people live in Juneau.) The visitor’s center is very nice, there are walking trails to a couple of viewpoints, but visitors cannot approach anywhere close to this glacier.
We returned to our cool catamaran for the return trip to Haines. And the fun began. Our jovial and alert captain scouted us up Dall porpoises, a couple of brown bears, a bunch of bald eagles, and an amazing listening and viewing whale experience. He explained the humpback whales form bubble rings to herd fish into a virtual net. Then the whales, on signal, rush the surface and gulp yards of fish-laden water. They filter the expelling water through their baleen, retaining the nutrient-rich fish.
He told us to watch the birds feeding on the water surface. He lowered a microphone into the water and we immediately heard a loud racket of whales talking to each other, coordinating their launch upward. The birds lifted off the water’s surface. And the whales broke the surface, a pod of more than half a dozen humpback whales. We watched awhile as they blew and arced and dove. Fascinating!
Doesn’t this look like a painting from the late 1800s or early 1900s? It is the Eldred Rock Lighthouse, and apparently it can be yours — not the photograph but the lighthouse is, we heard, for sale. Could you possibly find a more picturesque home than this one? However, you would need a stable water craft to be able to see your house like this because the island isn’t large enough to provide this view. And the weather isn’t often fair enough to offer this view either. Still, it makes a pretty picture.
We saw more on the three-hour cruise from Juneau to Haines, but we’ll save the bear pictures and you’ve already seen lots of waterfalls, glaciers, and birds. Here’s a nice closing picture for this post, it sums up well the long day touring and our gratefulness to be back “home” to our RVs.
Our tour guides in Dawson City told us the Northwest Mounted Police knew they could catch any bad guys leaving the town — there just weren’t any good places for someone to run from Dawson City. Juneau seems well suited to homeland security provisions — maybe all states need a good island for their capital!
Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees
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